Its day four of the first week in 15 years that I have had to think of absolutely no-one except myself. Well, ok, there is middleagedad.com, but he’s a grown up and despite being male he can actually fend for himself. The teens are both on a school trip and its very very weird!
It is so so quiet and the house is unusually messy. It has taken on an almost student like feel, dirty dishes in the sink (dishwashers broken again!) clutter everywhere and the bed not even made. Whats that about? Its almost as if I am liberated from being perfect. Obviously I am not perfect, but somehow as a mum, I have to be seen to do all the things I nag about all the time. No point in asking everyone to pick up clothes, load the dishwasher, clean the bathroom after them etc etc, if I don’t do it myself. Its a bit like smoking, try telling your teenagers not to do it after they’ve seen you puffing away outside the kitchen door every night.
So it appears I am actually as naturally messy and slovenly as I was when I was 14. The perfect tidy house has regressed into a hovel and I only have myself to blame. I wonder when the tidying obsession kicked in? I wasn’t tidy as a student (we once had a bag of chips filled with cigarette buts under our sofa for three weeks) and certainly never when I shared flats. Even when middleagedad and I bought our first flat, he regularly complained about the mound of clothes in the bedroom (well I work in fashion, which means a daily clothes crisis)
I hate to blame everything on the children but I think it was the day we arrived home from hospital with baby no 1. Overnight our beautiful designer flat turned into a seething mess of nappies, sterilizers, hideous changing mats decorated with bunnies, horrible bright plastic mobiles and a huge plastic baby bath (which we never ever used) As the baby became a toddler, all carefully chosen nick knacks from our travels to the more remote parts of the world were removed from harms way and replaced with stair gates, large pieces of educational plastic that made hideous noises when prodded and strange swinging contraptions that look like instruments of torture.
As one turned into two and they grew, the children required toy versions of adult things such as kitchens, tool benches, Wendy houses and bikes which completely took over the whole house. Mess took on a whole new meaning as their friends came over and large elaborate games were created involving every toy in the house. There is nothing quite like the sound of the Lego/Playmobil/Polly Pocket box being emptied, to strike fear into the heart of any mother. You just know it will be you who tidies it up, and there is a strange compulsion, no matter how tired you are, to put everything back in the right box. I used to look with horror at mothers who piled it all in together. Isn’t an ordered toy box the sign of a good mother? How would they ever be able to play properly with a jumbled mix of brands and OMG the horror of the different scales. Giant plastic soldiers in with small square playmobil people and tiny Polly Pockets, its just wrong, wrong, wrong! Maybe that’s when my OCD began. I went from a chaotic creative to Mary Poppins before you could say ‘Rosie cheeks and everything.’
There was nothing quite like the satisfaction of sitting in a child free, tidy living room at the end of a hard day with a large glass of wine, knowing your little ones were safely tucked up in bed and you had regained control of your environment.
Perhaps that’s what its all about, control. Living with teenagers, one definitely looses control of the house. Recently my daughter was having friends round and asked me to not come downstairs or use the kitchen and in fact ‘could I pretend I didn’t actually live there’ Hello, if I didn’t live there, who would tidy up when your friends went home?
I do ask myself from time to time if it really matters and why don’t I just let things go. But whenever I try that, everyone else lets things go too and we end up living on the set of Withnail and I. So I seem to have assumed the role of ‘Tidying fairy.’ A magical creature who moves silently round the house, picking things up and restoring them to their rightful place, and all without anyone even noticing.
But not this week, oh no, by Friday there will be takeaway cartons, wine bottles maybe even the odd cigarette end (and I don’t even smoke) strewn carelessly around the living room. The bathroom will be filled with wet towels and expensive pots of lotion with the tops off and the bedroom will look like Top Shop’s changing room at 5.PM on a Saturday.
There’s only one problem, guess who’ll be tidying it up?